A vineyard and wine tour of Kefalonia
You’ve probably been acquainted with the green-blue water and pine tree-green scenery of Kefalonia’s Insta-ready beaches. And maybe you know about cosmopolitan settlements like Assos and Fiskardo that provide the perfect setting to unwind on your holidays under the Mediterranean sun. What you probably don’t know is that Kefalonia also has a long wine tradition, with wineries you can visit that will make you view the Ionian Island in a whole new light.
Most of Kefalonia’s vineyards are mountainous or semi-mountainous (up to 800m above sea level) in the limestone-rich southern part of the island, along the Omalos Plateau near villages like Agios Eleftherios, Valsamata and Fragata, as well as Epanohori and Mihata and on the western and southwestern slopes of Mt Ainos. The white Robola grape – endemic to Kefalonia – is cultivated here, giving Kefalonia’s wines a unique identity and making the island an up-and-coming wine destination.
Indeed, the variety has earned Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status and an entire area on the slopes of Mt Ainos is known as the Robola Zone. It is home to the Robola Cooperative, a collection of around 300 winemakers in the Omalos Valley.
We have the Venetians to thank for Kefalonia’s wine heritage, as they brought the Robola grape with them during their occupation in the 16th century and successfully cultivated it despite the island’s rocky terrain. Indeed, the Venetians called their wine Vino di Sasso, or ‘Wine of Stone’.
Other grape varieties are also grown within the Robola Zone and in vineyards at lower altitudes, with Kefalonia having secured PDO status for both the red Mavrodafni and white Moschato grapes. Two Protected Geographical Identity regions also exist (Plagies Ainou and Mantzavinata).
So you can now imagine yourself on your holidays in Kefalonia, mixing beach time with getting to know this unexpected wine tradition for yourself. You’ll find wineries in Kefalonia that offer wine tasting and vineyard and cellar tours and from which you can buy a bottle or two to enjoy or take back home as a memento and a promise to be back for more.
Some cultural highlights in Kefalonia to go with your wine tasting and vineyard tour.
The Venetians’ Assos Castle
The seaside settlement of Assos, with its colourful houses built on a tiny peninsula, is one of Kefalonia’s most scenic villages, made all the more special by the Venetian castle that sits above it. It’s just a 20min walk up the hill to visit the 16th century remains and enjoy the sweeping views of the Ionian Sea.
Agios Georgios Castle
Built at the top of a hill within the small settlement of Kastro, in Peratata, the Castle of St George is a fortress built in the 12th century by the Byzantines as the capital of the island. The Venetians added to it and the settlement remained the capital of Kefalonia until 1757. You can walk within the fortress and admire its walls (from 1504) along with the Church of Annunciation and spectacular views of the slopes of Mt Ainos and a canopy of green that stretches to the sea.
The Archaeological Collection of Sami
Visiting the Archaeological Collection of Sami introduces you to Kefalonia’s ancient history and some of the most important artefacts uncovered on the island. The collection is split into four parts, including objects that date human activity on Kefalonia to the Bronze Age, and provides information on the evolution of the island’s second port through inscriptions and sculptures.
There are also objects from Roman bathhouses found in the sea around Sami, Agia Efimia and Fiskardo and everyday objects such as religious artefacts, cooking utensils, coins and jewellery as well as burial items.
The Korgialenio History & Folklore Museum
Charting the history of Kefalonia from the start of its Venetian occupation (around 1500 AD) until the devastating earthquake of 1953, this museum explores the island’s urban and rural life in all its guises (clothing, home economy, family & social life, popular art, recreation and more), as well as its ecclesiastical art and religious mores. You’ll be able to see what Kefalonia’s architecture and city planning was like before the earthquake, as well as the rebuilding process. The museum also pays homage to notable Kefalonians and other personalities who contributed to the island’s history.
The Agion Theodoron Lighthouse
One of Kefalonia’s most Instagrammable spots, the St Theodore Lighthouse just outside Argostoli is another of the island’s landmarks, especially at sunset. It was built in 1828 courtesy of the English and, while it wasn’t spared in the 1953 earthquake, it was rebuilt according to the original design.
How do you get to Kefalonia?
- Kefalonia has an airport with daily connections to Athens all year round, as well as direct international flights during the summer months.
- Reaching Kefalonia by boat, the island has three main ports – Argostoli (the main town), Poros and Sami, as well as the smaller harbours of Fiskardo and Pessada.
- The most common route to Kefalonia is from the port of Kylini (in the Peloponnese) to Poros (around 2hrs). Kylini and Argostoli are also serviced by regular ferries. Astakos is another mainland port that connects to Kefalonia (Sami) in around 3.5hrs.
- The nearest airport to Astakos is Aktio, from where you’ll need to continue by car. Alternatively, you’ll can drive to the port from Athens.
- Kefalonia also has ferry connections with neighbouring Ionian islands like Ithaca (from Pisaetos to Poros & Sami in Kefalonia, or Frikes to Fiskardo in Kefalonia), Lefkada (Nydri to Fiskardo & Lefkada to Sami), as well as Zante (main port to Sami & Pessada).
What is the best way to get to the wineries of Kefalonia?
- Kefalonia is a big island so it is advisable to rent a car, giving you the flexibility to visit its settlements, wineries, beaches and cultural sites.
- There are also organised excursions to vineyards, which include hotel transfers.
Vineyards to visit (including distances from Argostoli)
- Orealios Gaea (Robola Cooperative) – Valsamata (15.3km)
- Haritatos Estate – Paliki (38.4km)
- Petrakopoulos Wines – Thiramonas (25.6km)
- Sarris Winery – Avithos (10.5km)
- Gentilini Winery & Vineyards – Minies (5.4km)
- Divino Winery – Pessada (10.8km)
- Foivos Winery – Vouni (39.8km)
- Sclavos Winery – Kechrionas (32.1km)
When is the best time of year for a wine tour in Kefalonia?
- Vineyards in Kefalonia are open all year round (some upon request, so be sure to call first).
- To get the most out of your visit, we recommend spring or autumn.
- In April and May, you’ll find vines bursting with life once again, maybe with the first grapes of the year appearing.
- In autumn, you’ll find the wineries in full production mode, with staff tending the vines and the grape harvest in progress. You might even be lucky enough to witness grape treading and bottling. Naturally, spring and autumn are also quiet seasons for Kefalonia.
Discover Greece Tip: If you visit Kefalonia towards the end of August, you’ll have the chance to attend the Robola Festival, dedicated to the pressing of the first grapes of the season. Look for the exact dates as they change each year.
How much time do you need for a wine tour in Kefalonia?
- The whole Kefalonia wine route outlined here will take 3-4 days to complete (including the cultural monuments).
- Visiting each winery in Kefalonia lasts around 2-3hrs if you include wine tasting and a vineyard tour.